The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York presents ‘Indivisible: African –Native American Lives in the Americas’ , a 20-panel banner exhibition, showcasing the past and present history of African-Native Americans through first person narratives. ‘Indivisible’ discusses everything from the Cherokee Freedmen issue, Latin American connections, cultural innovations, the ties between Civil and Native Rights movement in the 60’s-70’s, to ancestral displacement.


‘Indivisible shares the past history of two heritages that created a foundation visibly present in every single one of our lives today.


‘Indivisible: African –Native American Lives in the Americas’ is currently showing till August 31st at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York.




IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas

via: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Within the fabric of American identity is woven a story that has long been invisible—the lives and experiences of people who share African American and Native American ancestry.


African and Native peoples came together in the Americas. Over centuries, African Americans and Native Americans created shared histories, communities, families, and ways of life. Prejudice, laws, and twists of history have often divided them from others, yet African-Native American people were united in the struggle against slavery and dispossession, and then for self-determination and freedom.


For African-Native Americans, their double heritage is truly indivisible. – Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian


Comanche family, early 1900s

Here is a family from the Comanche Nation located in southwestern Oklahoma. The elder man in Comanche traditional clothing is Ta-Ten-e-quer. His wife, Ta-Tat-ty, also wears Comanche clothing. Their niece (center) is Wife-per, also known as Frances E. Wright. Her father was a Buffalo Soldier (an African American cavalryman) who deserted and married into the Comanches. Henry (center left) and Lorenzano (center right) are the sons of Frances, who married an African American man.

Courtesy Sam DeVenney

Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960)


Alabama-born Zora Neale Hurston maintains her place among the most acclaimed American authors. She once boasted that she was “the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on their mother’s side was not an Indian chief.” In that same breath, Hurston confessed that she was of mixed blood but differed “from the party line in that I neither consider it an honor or shame.”


Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division



Buck Franklin (1879–1960), son of a Chickasaw freedman (emancipated slave)


Buck Franklin (shown here ca. 1899 with his older brother, Matthew) was named after his grandfather, who had been a slave of a Chickasaw family in Oklahoma. Buck Franklin became a lawyer, notably defending survivors of the Tulsa Riots in 1921 which had resulted in the murder of 300 African Americans.


Courtesy John Franklin



Jimi Hendrix, rock legend


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

—Jimi Hendrix


The rock-and-roll innovator Jimi Hendrix often spoke proudly of his Cherokee grandmother. He was one of many African Americans who cite family traditions in linking Native ancestry.


Photo by Graham F. Page. Courtesy Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame



Mildred and Richard Loving—who may marry whom?


Mildred Loving, who was of mixed African American and Rappahannock Indian heritage, was deemed a Negro under Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. She and her white husband, Richard, were arrested in 1958 for violating state laws against interracial marriage.


Their case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor, overturning anti-miscegenation laws throughout the nation in 1967.


Photograph by Francis Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images



Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham (1905–97)


Of Cherokee and Choctaw heritage, this journeyman trumpeter and vocalist received many awards in recognition of his remarkably long career. He toured Europe with Sam Wooding and played with Cab Calloway, Teddy Wilson, Claude Hopkins, Sam Price, and Machito and other Latin bandleaders.


Courtesy Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University



John Horse and the Second Seminole War (1835–1842)


The Seminoles were a union of Southeastern Indian peoples—especially Creeks—who had lost their lands to English colonists and moved into Spanish-controlled Florida, along with independent communities of escaped black slaves, who became known as Black Seminoles.


John Horse was a powerful figure in the war that the Seminoles waged with the United States to fend off forced removal from Florida to Oklahoma. Unwilling to accept a restricted life of defeat in Indian Territory, he led a band of Black Seminoles into Mexico, where he died in 1882.


Courtesy UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures, #068-1107; Courtesy of the artist Kate M. W. Oliver



The Longest Walk, 1978


Solidarity between African Americans and Native Americans grew with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, whose goals were closer to the nationalism espoused by American Indian Movement activists. Pictured here (left to right) are Muhammad Ali, Buffy St. Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram at a concert at the end of the Longest Walk, a 3,600-mile protest march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in the name of Native rights.


Courtesy David Amram



Foxx family (Mashpee), 2008


(L to R): Anne, Monet, Majai (baby), Aisha, and Maurice Foxx


Photograph by Kevin Cartwright



Twenty-seven passionate essays explore the complex history and contemporary lives of people with a dual heritage that is a little-known part of American culture. Authors from across the Americas share first-person accounts of struggle, adaptation, and survival and examine such diverse subjects as contemporary art, the Cherokee Freedmen issue, and the evolution of jazz and blues. This richly illustrated book brings to light an epic history that speaks to present-day struggles for racial identity and understanding.


Indivisible illuminates a history fraught with colonial oppression, racial antagonism, and the loss of culture and identity. Uncovered within that history, however, are stories of cultural resurgence and the need to know one’s roots in this 256 page, 115 color, black & white illustrated book.


To purchase ‘Indivisible’ click here


To view much more of the Indivisible: African –Native American Lives in the Americas’ exhibit click here